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Advice / Job Search / Finding a Job

3 Keys to Having a Successful Job Search (That a Lot of People Don't Know About)

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Have you ever heard about someone “cutting the line” to land their dream job?

They’re the people getting the perfect position without ever submitting a resume, or negotiating a sweet signing bonus plus five weeks vacation, or getting hired for a role the company created just for them. How do they do it? Are they just naturally golden? Or do they know something you don’t?

While you might use the word lucky, these folks aren’t necessarily more more talented; they’ve simply perfected a way of approaching the job search in a manner others haven’t been trained in (or are fearful of adopting). This out-of-the-box approach gives them a notable advantage when it comes to standing out.

So what do they know and how can you follow their lead to make your next transition not only more quickly, but more successfully as well?

Do what they do:

1. High Performers Don’t Follow the Application Rules

The standard approach to applying for a position is to follow the application instructions outlined in the job post and get in touch with an internal recruiter. But high performers know that there’s a back door—and that it’s often a better bet.

My client Eric did exactly this. He reached out to people within the company in similar roles to the one he was interviewing for. If the conversation went well, he asked his new contact to introduce him to the hiring manager. (And if you’re unsure of how to go about that, here’s how you can find an in.)

You can identify and contact future co-workers or the hiring manager directly (often through LinkedIn), both to build relationships and to do a little under-the-radar investigation about the company culture.

Just like knowing the hostess at a popular restaurant shortens your wait time, you too can cut the line. Instead of waiting with the crowd, your future boss picks up the phone to recruiting and says “I just talked to Eric, can you make sure he gets an interview?”

2. High Performers Don’t Focus on the Interview

Instead of focusing on scoring an interview at any cost, they decide whether or not a company or position is even worthy of their time. They want to know whether it’s a fit before they sit down across the table from a hiring manager. In other words, it’s having the confidence to remind yourself you’re in control.

For example, you can do a little private investigation work on the company, hiring manager, and other employees. See how they’re talked in the news, and how management responds to press (both good and bad). Regarding your prospective teammates: What kinds of causes do they support? What types of people seem to be employed there? What do they all do in their off hours?

Ironically, this confidence makes these professionals more desirable than the average candidate. When you’re being selective, you do your homework, and that means going into the interview process with a greater level of knowledge and conviction about the organization.

3. High Performers Don’t Just Accept What They’re Given

They’re looking for the right job, not just any job. While a lot of people are grateful to get an offer, this group wants a position that gets them closer to their career goals, and, as such, they’re willing to negotiate, ask for more, or turn down an offer that doesn’t meet their minimum requirements.

Obviously, then, it’s critical to know what that “right” job entails. To do this, it’s important to understand your unique strengths, as well as the work environment you’re looking for."

My client Jerrad, did the hard work of identifying what would make a great move before he started applying to anything. He knew he wanted to move to Nashville and be able to spend time away from his desk. It was also critical that he was in a teaching role, sharing his passions and interests with others. He set a minimum salary requirement, and was keen on finding a position that offered growth.

This list helped him focus his search on companies that appeared to be a good fit from the start. And then when he received an offer, he was prepared to ask for his salary and benefit requirements, as well get the organization to commit to future advancement, all because he’d prepared his “wish list” ahead of time.

Instead of thinking this will cut out too many options and leave you with nothing, remind yourself that being focused on your ideal will help you sort through all the possibilities out there. And it just takes one offer to get you to the next step.

Once high performers know what they’re looking for, they focus on the outcome versus the process. They’re willing to change things up, move pieces around, try something different in order to get where they want to go. Keep your eyes on the prize, and know that you too can be a high performer—if you just know how to play the game.

Want to know how to get hired for what you're best at? Check out The Ultimate Guide to Using Your Strengths to Get Hired.

Here at The Muse, we love introducing you to people who can boost your career. We are working with this contributor on an affiliate basis (meaning we earn a little money when you choose to use their services), but rest assured that we don't just work with anyone. When it comes to articles like this, we chose to work with this coach not because he wanted a Muse byline, but because his advice was truly awesome. Here's to finding the career of your dreams!